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Scientists Discover a Great Garbage Patch in Lake Erie
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Researchers have confirmed reports of an alarming increase in plastic pollutants in the Great Lakes – and the mass of plastics is beginning to behave like the concentrated toxic conglomeration known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The production and dumping of plastic products has affected the Great Lakes region much as it has impacted oceans and beaches around the world. Some of the plastic pollution in Lake Erie has already deteriorated into microscopic pellets that are exceptionally difficult to clean up.
The research on the Great Lakes was reported by Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, Ph. D. at the American Chemical Society meeting. Rios explained that plastic production has increased by 500 percent over the last thirty years, which has directly contributed to ocean and fresh water pollution. In fact, plastic bags, raw plastic pellets, bottles, synthetic fibers and other products make up between 80 and 90 percent of ocean pollution.
Research was conducted in Lake Erie, where Rios’ team collected samples of plastic pollution by targeting plastic debris islands that swirl throughout the lake. The researchers found at some points 1.7 million (with a minimum of 1,500) plastic particles per square mile. Many of the plastic particles were almost undetectable at less than two-tenths of an inch- which are easily picked up by birds and fish who mistake the pellets for food.
Aside from exposing our fresh water and marine life to pollution, the plastic can also be passed back onto us. If fish eat up these micro-plastics and are then caught for the consumer food chain, the trash is coming full circle- returning to us in the form of our food.
The disturbing research has shown that the plastic pollution in the Great Lakes may be worse than the Southern Atlantic Ocean, making scientists worry of the fate of the largest group of fresh water lakes in the world.
Images ©Kevin Krejci
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